Rosh Hashanah Musings: The Power of Traditions

Traditions embody so much of Rosh Hashanah that it seems fitting I republish this post each fall, on this day. And, before you ask…yes! I do know where Nana’s table cloth is this year 🙂

L’Shana Tova. ~ Dr. Gwenn


Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. As today approached, I found myself quickly entering autopilot to prepare. Cooking, shopping, contemplating…comes with the holiday week.

The holiday actually starts the night before with a meal. Last year I discovered that it’s not the meal that matters but the extra special things that go with the meal. During the meal preparations, I went to find a very special tablecloth given to me by my Nana, my mom’s mom. This table cloth had to be on the table. It was a necessity in my mind. I went to the usually spot I keep it and was shocked to find it not there. Panic set in. I had no idea where it was.

I recall vividly when Nana gave me this tablecloth. It was about 15 years ago and I was expecting our oldest daughter. We were running our first sedar – a big deal for a Jewish woman but an especially major deal for me since I married “out of the faith”. To give you a sense of my Nana, as traditional as you’d expect someone from her generation to be, she was my husband’s first and biggest fan in the family. Nana came over with all sorts of stuff that day, including this tablecloth, and wanted us to keep it. It was clear a baton was being passed. Not a holiday went by from that day until the day she died that she didn’t call with a tip or two about chicken soup or preparing a meal, and she always seemed so happy to hear that her tablecloth was on the table. So, I had to find it, and it had to be on our table.

The last time I recall it being used was on Passover at my Mom’s house but Mom was certain it was not there. After tearing apart my home, including the attic, which is not at all where it would be since that contains Christmas stuff (but people look in strange places when special things go missing!), I called Mom again. “Are you sure? Can you check one more time? Otherwise, I think Nana’s tablecloth is lost.”

That was all Mom needed to hear – she was now on “Mission: Find The Tablecloth”. An hour later the phone rings. It was my Mom. She has the tablecloth after all. Apparantely, she has put it somewhere safe after Passover and had to go through all her “safe spots” to figure out which one it was in. A wave of relief rippled over the entire family. The tablecloth will be on the New Year’s table and on the Yom Kippur table next week, which is a good thing since Yom Kippur is the one day a year we are supposed to atone for our sins and I was fairly certain losing this very important family heirloom counted as a major sin. Slate clean for one more year!!

While the tablecloth was missing, I remember feeling horrible. I honestly could not imagine a holiday without that tablecloth. We all know the connection between emotions and health, but did you know there is similar science between spirituality and health? After my experience last year, I’d believe it!!

But, it makes sense. The more “well” we feel in our body, mind and soul the better our bodies work and that translates to our kids as well. If we can teach this to our kids and help them feel this as they get older, their bodies will also reap those benefits. I’m not talking about anything deeply religious, by the way. I’m just talking more about family traditions and foundations. Having something strong you all do and believe in that you do practice and repeat that your kids will learn to count on and understand. That’s the fabric that makes your family what it is. That’s what I think spirituality is and what makes up the spirituality in a family. You could actually interchange “tradition” or “culture” for “spirituality” and end up in the same place in my mind.

Despite our moaning and groaning at times over some of the holiday logistics, I can’t knock the overall benefits to my kids for some of the perks they reap when we pull off some great family times when holidays roll by. We don’t have to have a holiday to create this for our kids but holidays allow us to build in a pause to our craze lives to pull it off so I’ll take it!

So, Nana’s tablecloth is once again on our holiday table without becoming lost in some long lost closet. Her soup is made compliments of my Mom. And, the dessert baton torch has been passed to her great grand daughters – a tradition I know my Nana would have loved to have seen, and tasted! All in all, the New Year is off to a great start.

L’Shana Tova! (Have a sweet and great year!)

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